US citizen, Theresa Riggi, was charged for the murder of her three young children in Scotland in early August 2010. She stabbed her 8-year old twin sons and 5-year old daughter to death before trying to kill herself by jumping from her apartment balcony; Theresa Riggi survived. The triple homicide occurred near the end of a bitter custody battle with her husband, Shell oil executive, Pasquale Riggi, also American.
The DailyMail reports:
The tragedy came 24 hours after a concerned Scottish judge presiding over the American couple’s divorce proceedings had instructed court officials to search for Mrs Riggi.
Social services were also told to step in to supervise the three children. Mr Riggi’s lawyer, asking for a court order to safeguard the children’s interests, had warned: ‘I think there is a real emergency in this matter.’ Police had been searching for Mrs Riggi after she fled with her sons and daughter last month.
The mother and children had been reported missing from their home in Skene, Aberdeenshire, by 46-year-old Mr Riggi on July 11. Two days later a judge made an order to prevent the youngsters being taken out of the country. Ports and airports were alerted and police appealed to the public for help in finding them.
They were subsequently traced to the Edinburgh house, which is believed to be owned by a friend, on July 21. Police said they were ‘safe and well’. But when the mother failed to appear in court in the Scottish capital on Tuesday for another hearing in their divorce case, a judge ordered a search. The court also instructed social services to supervise the three children, once they were found, and apply for protection orders if necessary.
Mrs Riggi – who also calls herself Mrs Butimore – objected to her estranged husband seeing their children, the court heard. On several occasions she had sent them to visit him equipped with mobile phones and personal alarms. Mr Riggi’s solicitor said one issue in the divorce was that their father wanted the children to go to school but Mrs Riggi was a believer in home schooling.
The Blindingly Obvious
According to TheSun, Theresa Riggi’s mother, Patricia Butimore, claimed Theresa snapped because she was afraid she would lose custody of the children to her ex-husband. Forgive me for pointing out the blindingly obvious, but one surefire way to guarantee the loss of one’s children is to murder them. Shared custody doesn’t equate to losing one’s children—it means you share them with the individual who contributed 50% of their DNA and who loves them them enough not to kill them. Even if Mr Riggi received full custody, presumably Theresa would have had visitation. Murdering your children is an irrevocable loss.
These murders seem to have been more about a woman who didn’t want to share custody with the children’s father rather than losing custody. This isn’t about a mom who loved her children too much or who absconded with them to protect them from their father. If you’re trying to protect your kids, you don’t kill them—again, blindingly obvious. It appears Theresa Riggi wanted to “win” at all costs and when it became clear to her that she wasn’t going to get the outcome she wanted from the courts, she killed her own children rather than share them with their father. If I can’t have you all to myself then no one else will. Did she snap? Yes. Should she be able to claim mental breakdown as an excuse? Maybe, but it shouldn’t exonerate her or provide the groundwork for a reduced sentence for her horrific crimes.
Does Theresa Riggi Have a Personality Disorder?
Possibly, I don’t know. Nevertheless, there’s something seriously wrong with an individual who views murdering her own children as a viable alternative to sharing custody with the children’s father. One could legitimately argue that stabbing your children to death seems to be extreme high-conflict behavior.
According to William Eddy, LCSW, Esq, not all HCPs (high-conflict people) have full-blown personality disorders, but many of them have Cluster B (Histrionic, Borderline, Narcissistic and Antisocial) personality-disordered traits. These traits include emotional reasoning, all-or-nothing thinking, minimizing the positive while maximizing the negative, chronic blaming, a belief that the rules and laws of society apply to everyone else, but not them and an inability or unwillingness to take responsibility for their actions.
In a recent online conversation, a group was discussing what makes the unthinkable thinkable for high-conflict individuals and/or some individuals with personality disorders. Why are some content to ‘just’ cyber-stalk/stalk, cyber-harass via text and email, offline harass, key cars, slash tires, play games with child custody drop-offs and pick-ups, break into their exes’ apartments/homes, hack into their email and other accounts, violate court orders and conduct smear campaigns while others cross the line and commit violence and/or enlist negative advocates to commit violence for them? How is it that this type of individual can seemingly sleep just fine at night even though they’re abusing others, wreaking havoc, destroying relationships, bullying and/or planning to murder an ex-husband, an ex-husband’s new wife or girlfriend or their own children?
Check back in a couple of days to read possible explanations for why some of these individuals slide down the slippery slope into violence and possibly homicide.
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That is just sad.
Dr Tara Palmatier says
We were actually following this story when it first came out, if it’s the one I think it is. She jumped from a 3rd story balcony and tried to cover the children’s murders with a fire. I don’t believe that she was actually trying to kill herself. There are much more lethal things than a 3 story drop. When she jumped from the window, she was screaming “My Children!” right before tossing herself from the balcony. I believe there is also an alternative explanation. I believe that she could have also been trying to frame her ex for murder.
Also, she was seriously pushing home-schooling the kids. I am not against home schooling – however, this is the type of woman that will do it to wield more control. “The kids can’t be with him that much, I am that teacher and they have to be in school every day.”
Look at the picture. She is the center – everything in the world revolves around her. Her hair is perfect, her body is toned, she is sitting in a “look at me” position and the children are like window dressing or dolls.
This is very sad.
Old Guy says
I wasn’t aware of this story before.
From what you say, it sounds like she might well have been trying to shift the blame for the murder of the children away from herself.
Perhaps I’m just imagining things but, it seems to me that incidents where a father kills their child are generally cut and dried, i.e., the father either kills himself as well or admits that they killed the child or children, while those involving mothers at least sometimes ends up with the mother trying to blame a third party and rarely with the mother actually killing them-self.
Admittedly though there are many cases where a husband who kills their wife … and perhaps the kids as well … tries to shift blame to an “intruder”, “burglar” or some similar third party to avoid taking responsibility.
I know some people think in the way Mrs. Riggi apparently does but, I can’t grasp how they can or how they got to where they are.
Perhaps it good that I can’t.
She hate her ex-husband more than loving her child.
Dr Tara Palmatier says
You sum it up very well, JXU. Thank you.
We have a friend that says that about my husband’s ex.
GI Dad says
My own divorce will be going to a custody hearing next (waiting on a date to be set) and this is something that I have a very real fear about. I brought it up with family members and my attorney. IF custody changes (and I have every reason to think that it will) I want my attorney to request that the exchange happen immediately or that the children be placed in protective custody until the exchange takes place. B/H/NPD’s must avoid the ego-annihilation they fear at all costs. If the children are props in their world, to be used for their own warped sense of self (Oh, you’re such a wonderful mother! How do you do it all by yourself? You’re so strong.”)…well, if they lose custody, then people may think that the woman ISN’T so wonderful, that maybe there’s good enough reason for the kids to be taken away. THAT is the reasoning (lmao) behind these types of acts: “What will people think of ME?” And then in their warped minds, they think that such an act will lead to sympathy for THEM! (What sort of terrible man would push a woman to do such a terrible thing?) Of course, there’s also the aspect of “I hate him, he’ll never win.” But ultimately, it’s about the B/H/NPD. I had not heard of this case previously, but I suspect (and time will tell) that Mrs. Riggi will relish the attention being placed on HER during the trial, and will be portrayed as the ultimate victim by her defense. Sad overall. I hope that Mr. Riggi gets to make a victim impact statement and that it carries enough weight to have this woman locked away for the rest of her life.
She must have been a pretty crappy mother to begin with. It’s obvious to me that she saw her children, not as viable human beings but as property / tools with which to hurt her estranged husband. She doesn’t need prison…she needs a straightjacket.
Indeed a shame, 3 beautiful young lives. But then again, people make decisions (good, bad, dangerous & otherwise) about other people lives everyday. In no way am I condoning this behavior, just stating characteristics of human nature at it’s worst.
I agree w/ the frame idea as if this woman is as manipulative and unfair as is implied. She was trying to create something for herself and perhaps her ex. Maybe she did snap, but a person doesn’t just snap, I think they are like those who commit suicide, plan, advertise, rehearse, revenge… There’s really just the moment of making the decision, if you want to call that snapping.
Then again, maybe she did try to be perfect? Maybe she had it all wrong from the get go? Maybe she really tried and ultimately went into self destruct and destruct mode because it was all too much to bare? I don’t know. They were all indeed beautiful people and tragedy came through her mind, then she acted or reacted. So much lost by a punitive decision.
And that’s the way it is, till there is help, some how, some way.
See this photo of the balcony scene – hardly a serious suicide attempt and the gas fire cover for the coldblooded murder of these poor children seems pretty transparent.
I can see a thread of my suspected BPD / diagnosed Bulimic ex in Mrs Riggi – it’s all about control; keeping the children at home, unreasonable custody expectations, inability to negotiate towards a win-win outcome, unnecessary litigation over minor issues, rigid and self-centred thinking, etc.
Although the tragic death of these children is an extreme scenario, women in high-conflict divorces often use their children to strike back at their husbands which can damage the children tremendously, but this is hardly ever identified or punished by the legal system unless it becomes blatant – I think that post breakup counselling should be made compulsory in any contested divorce where there are children involved.
In my case “fortunately” my ex agreed to a mediated custody outcome, all the time whilst dangling a Damocles sword of a pending suit for minimal visitation rights I should mention, and in the final agreement I have roughly 40% custody, she 60%. I accepted this because I was widely advised that in my jurisdiction 50/50 is never ordered by a judge if the mother refuses, and even 60/40 is a very rare court-ordered outcome. It’s quite frankly a ridiculous state of affairs and further proof that the family law system, in this jurisdiction as well as most others, is entirely rigged in favour of mothers, since the mother has enormous financial incentives to refuse 50/50, because she then receives less alimony, which seems strange, but the logic is that the father then “has a family” (at 40% not, apparently) and therefore needs to keep more of his own money. Also the 50/50 arrangement (only then is it called “co-parenting”) is known to be associated with much less in the way of future possibilities of succesfully petitioning the court for permission for a long-distance house move, including overseas.
But to get back to the point, during these mediation discussions it became quite apparent that my cluster-B ex viewed, no doubt in large part due to these factors, a 50/50 shared custody outcome as “losing”, also because she could no longer in such a situation declare to her social circle that she’s the “primary caregiver”, even though she was no such thing during the marriage other than in the theoretical on-paper sense that the idiotic family law courts seek to promote on the assumption that she must have been since I had a full time job and she was a SAHM. I’ve even noticed that on her FB profile (I’m not linked to her btw) she describes herself as “busy being a full time mom”.
Hey Expatdad, let me guess: You get custody from friday night through monday morning? That’s what my ex wanted (and I was happy to give it to her for reasons I’ll state in a bit) because she wanted her weekends free so to party and have fun. She likes to pretend she’s the doting mom by making an occasional appearance at school functions, but in reality, it’s a relief that most of her time with the child is taken up by someone ELSE looking after him.
I’m glad to have my son on the weekends because I know when he’s with me, he’s in a stable and predictable environment, not living in chaos (my ex loves living in a constant state of flux). During the week, my son spends most of his waking hours in school, which is another stable and predictable place. So thanks to my ex’s slack parenting, my son spends most of his time sheltered from his mom and her drama. Letting her have custody on a weekend would be like leaving him unattended. Even the few hours he has with her, she parks him in front of the TV or the Wii so she can focus on her internet dating persuits.
Anyone has advise to give on what to do with the kids’ complaints and anxieties about being at her house during her parenting time? My kids, who are still very young, are rapidly moving towards outright rebellion at being at her place. It’s extremely uncomfortable because I’m afraid that by listening or responding to what they are saying that I’ll be slapped with “parental alienation syndrome”, but the complaints they are giving me are determined, insistent, constant and getting worse, it’s clear enough that she is alienating them from herself. My old attorney told me that while I can and should record her that I must not record the children. I have been thinking to get the children into therapy anyway because everyone needs it and on one hand that seems good b/c I’m sure they’ll tell the therapist what’s going on, but on the other hand I have had so much experience with professionals who systematically twist everything around to favor the woman over the man that that even scares me.
Hi Joe, not quite – I have Fri pm until Mon am every second weekend, plus every Weds pm until Thurs am. Combined with half the school vacations, this works out to more or less exactly 40% over the year. The problem is there is still a *lot* of free time at her place, obviously more than at mine, and the so-called parenting at her place is exactly as you describe – my son in particular is left in front of the TV, Xbox (incl. live) and PC with internet (all installed in his room there, something that during the marriage she used to agree was a complete no-no) and allowed 18+ games to boot – basically no rules is the rule.
At the time of the mediation, I was able to get this agreement out of her because she was also keen on her dating pursuits at the time, but now that aspect has stabilised with the same boyfriend/partner for nearly two years now. He’s also a matter of concern – some eight years younger than her (he’s 30, she’s 38), ex-military/police and majorly into the most violent computer/console games as well (his main ‘hobby’) so my son gets extra validation from him. He’s also as good as cohabiting with her- although he has his own apartment (conveniently he moved to an apartment a couple of hundred yards away about 18 months ago) I understand he’s there at my ex’s home pretty much most of the time. They also go on vacation together, with and without the kids.
So true,If she truly loved her kids more then herself she would of killed herself only, not her children. But this shows she clearly loved herself more and only thought of her kids as an extension of herself, which is very narcisstic.
Its like the man who loses his job and then kills his whole family, thinking that they wouldnt be able to cope(but in reality its himself that cant cope with the shame so kills his family so he doesnt have to deal with it) Its very scary.
I tried Googling for a little more info, but I didn’t see anything on what happened in between the time they tracked her to one location and the time she killed the children. Were the authorities not able to get to the location before she moved on? Why did the authorities wait until the missed court date to request supervision of the children? If she took off for 2 weeks without telling the children’s father or at least the court of her whereabouts with the children, that should have been a huge red flag right there. Maybe if the authorities had stepped in then, the children would still be alive. What a horrible, awful tragedy.
Unfortunately the social services in Edinburgh were probably overworked and under experienced. Because Scotland has its own legal system (c/w the UK) I am not sure what will happen with regards to an enquiry as to failings in the system, but I am sure the procurator fiscal (equivalent to the district attourney) will be considering a review once the legal stuff is adressed.
Dr. T, if you’re not already aware of the Leisa Jones case, that’s another case where the mother may have been personality disordered, by the description of her eldest son’s father. The mother slashed the throats of her 3 eldest and set the home on fire. The 3 eldest died from the stab wounds, the mother and her youngest from smoke inhalation. Initially, the 14 year old son was suspected as the killer. Here are some articles about it:
Old Guy says
Here’s another one.
This was very sad indeed. I wonder ever if her ex-husband notice any red-flags about her. May her children rest in peace.